Mini Heart Pump Recipient Goes Home


Friday, July 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


HOUSTON (AP) — The first person to have a new type of miniature heart pump successfully implanted to keep her blood flowing while doctors searched for a replacement is back home after undergoing a heart transplant.

Lois Spiller, a 52-year-old retired financial analyst, spoke between tears Thursday as she described her joy over her improved health.

``I'm just real happy to be here today,'' she said. ``I just knew I had to come through this after all the support my family and the doctors had given me.''

To keep her alive until her transplant, the Jarvik 2000 left ventricular assist device was implanted in Spiller's failing heart on April 10, after her physicians gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials with the device.

The battery-operated device is about the size of a wine cork and fits directly into the heart's left ventricle. When the heart can no longer pump properly, the tiny turbine pushes oxygenated blood throughout the body.

The implantation of the device brings scientists closer to the goal of finding an alternative to a heart transplant. For now, the FDA has approved study of the pump only as a bridge to transplant.

Two other patients with end-stage heart failure have been implanted with the device and are waiting for donor hearts to become available. Another two had the device implanted on an emergency basis; both died shortly after the surgery.

Spiller, whose heart trouble dates back to 1987, had the implant in her enlarged heart for 79 days. She received her heart transplant three weeks ago and was released from the hospital July 11.

Spiller said she is getting around just fine, and has even cooked breakfast and washed dishes since leaving the hospital. Before the artificial pump was transplanted, she was so weak that she struggled to even talk.

According to the Texas Heart Institute, about 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure. The ideal therapy is a transplant, but there are only about 2,500 donor hearts available each year. About 6,000 patients annually die before receiving a transplant.

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On the Net:

Texas Heart Institute: http://www.texasheartinstitute.org/j2000400.html